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The Pittsburgh Steelers have seemingly reached their breaking point with wide receiver Antonio Brown.
In the strongest statement to date on Brown’s future with the team, owner Art Rooney II told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it’s “hard to envision” being with the Steelers next season.
“There’s not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision,” Rooney told Dulac. “We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table.
“Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way away from thinking that can happen. We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”
Start the trade rumors now. Anything can happen over a long offseason, but that’s a strong statement from the owner on Brown, one of the team’s stars. Clearly, the Steelers are fed up after Brown skipped practices and meetings in Week 17 and then was benched for the game as a result.
Has Antonio Brown worn out his Steelers welcome?
The Steelers have had some off-field drama with Brown before his Week 17 antics, but Rooney is right that it would be hard for Brown to come back to the team. Reportedly, Brown yelled at Ben Roethlisberger and threw a ball at him in a Wednesday morning walk-through, then skipped practice the rest of the week. He didn’t show up to mandatory meetings on Saturday. He arrived Sunday expecting to play. The Steelers deactivated him for the game. Some Steelers teammates anonymously told the media how upset they were at the situation.
One point that has been made often is that trading Brown would cause the Steelers to carry $21.1 million of dead money on the salary cap. Rooney told Dulac that wouldn’t stop the team from dealing him.
“If we decide something has to be done, we’ll figure out how to deal with that,” Rooney said.
Rooney left himself some outs, saying there’s a long way to go before next season and even two months before anything can be done at the start of the new league year. It’s possible he’s making threats to send a message to Brown, who Dulac wrote hasn’t returned calls from Rooney or coach Mike Tomlin since the end of the season.
Dulac asked Rooney if Brown would be at training camp.
“As we sit here today, it’s hard to envision that,” Rooney told Dulac. “But there’s no sense on closing the door on anything today. There’s snow on the ground. We don’t have to make those decisions right now.”
Brown’s response was yet another cryptic tweet:
Brown’s trade value will be interesting
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a player of Brown’s talent to get traded, but it is rare.
Brown’s age won’t help the Steelers deal him. He’ll be 31 years old before next season. However, Brown is a Hall-of-Fame talent and just led the NFL with 15 receiving touchdowns. The Steelers might not be able to get absolute peak value in a deal for Brown, but they’ll get a nice return.
Like Rooney said, however, nothing needs to be decided now. It’s early January and whatever either side wants to say isn’t binding. Time could heal wounds, minds could change before Brown has to be at the team’s facility.
But after Rooney’s comments on Thursday, a reunion for the 2019 season seems less likely than ever.
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